In a quaint Brooklyn, Bed-Stuy salon, Gaia Earthpeace and Judith Essien treat their clients with shaves, trims, fades, colors, styles and treatments. This spirit of beauty for the body and soul brings together the community in an atmosphere of generosity and harmony.
Barbers Of Yesteryear
On a tranquil Bed-Stuy street (Bedford Stuyvesant), a residential African-American neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York celebrated, among others, by Spike Lee’s film “Do The Right Thing”, a small salon welcomes guests for an old-fashioned shave, a fade or a haircut. Gaia Earthpeace and her partner in life and work Judith Essien both wear thick, long dreadlocks. Gaia tucks them under a hat and wears shirts, suspenders and pants. As for Judith, she sports sculptural hairstyles, printed dresses, African jewelry and bright make-up. At the salon warm soul tunes create a sensual ambiance. In the Kabbalah, Chokmah means wisdom, creative impulse. Gaia and Judith are vegan, idealistic, engaged. Gaia is also a rapper. For them, beauty is a gesture of sincerity and generosity.
A Life Of Adventures
Born in Virginia, Gaia moved to Baltimore and then New York in 2010 to break into the music business. She took a job at a barber’s and obtained her license. “I always loved style, salons, that whole world,” she says. “I studied in Virginia and was cutting my friends’ hair, often white friends. I never thought I’d become a barber.” Her influences: Michael Jackson, Salt-N-Pepa, De La Soul, the pure and free expression of hip-hop or soul musicians. “The first principle of style,” she says, “is self-knowledge, sincerity. Everything starts from there.” Her signature looks: elaborate undercuts, zigzags, circles, geometric shapes drawn with a razor… And the fade, emblematic cut of the Golden Era of hip-hop immortalized by Grace Jones. Between two shaves, Gaia records her engaged, lyrical hip-hop, accompanied by a dreamy electronic sound.
Judith Essien was born in Ghana and arrived in Harlem at the age of 14 with her mother. “I did hairdos and braids at a foster home in Harlem,” she remembers. “It was my gift to the other girls. Even if one is totally broke, one feels good if one looks good.” A few jobs later, she took color classes and worked in a Chelsea salon. She met Gaia on a shoot and fell in love. Their dream: to open their own salon. In 2014, Chokmah opened in Bedford Stuyvesant, welcoming a colorful and creative crowd – boys, men, businesswomen, family members and even celebrities like soul singer Erykah Badu, TV personality Lara Spencer or actress Jennifer Hudson – for cuts, colors and music or movie nights.
Together, they are strong, proud and inspired. “I’ll always be an African, it’s in my blood and in my culture,” says Judith Essien. And her beauty secret? “Be yourself! Surround yourself with people you love, travel, read, accept yourself. It’s the only way of finding true beauty.”